Ethically-made products for ethically-minded women.
Brand: Elizabeth Suzann
Product(s): women’s apparel
Price: $145 – $1,125
Eco / Ethical: made to last in Nashville using natural materials
“It’s too expensive” is what I hear most when I try to encourage others to buy American-made and / or ethically-made products. I don’t fully disagree, and I’m aware that even having the time and energy to think about and research what to buy is a luxury, let alone having the means to then make those purchases. I’ve always tried to be thoughtful in my responses – I buy better, so I ultimately buy less; when you buy from smaller brands there is less markup; I believe in putting money directly into the local economy; equitable labor is expensive, as are high quality materials, etc. – but I’ve never felt fully successful in my argument.
And I think that’s largely because the modern retail cycle of continuous discounting has led us all to believe that, by and large, most products are overpriced, and should only be bought on sale. What’s more, transparency has become a buzzword, and consequently has lost much of its meaning, making consumers even more skeptical. I get it. I’ve just never been articulate enough to explain why that doesn’t have to be – and, frankly, shouldn’t be – the case. Fortunately, Elizabeth Suzann went ahead and did it for me.
Elizabeth Suzann is a fashion label based in Nashville that creates thoughtful, well-designed and long-lasting garments for women. Every piece is cut and sewn in the company’s own factory, using high quality, natural-fiber materials. And, in addition to being designed and made to last, their pieces are also beautiful. They make the kind of stuff you never actually put away because you just keep wearing it day after day.
At the same time, the pieces are what most would consider to be expensive. Even though the materials fall beautifully, the construction is impeccable, and you can take comfort in knowing that each piece has been extensively wear-tested (if you follow the company on Instagram, you’ll see that the team is currently wear-testing a new style of pants for 90 days to ensure that they meet their standards), the price-point is still a hard one for many to swallow.
And that’s why, earlier this year, Liz Pape, the founder and CEO of Elizabeth Suzann, wrote a blog post that has since become the first place I direct people when they tell me that buying ethically is too expensive. In an honest, thoughtful manner, Liz broke down exactly what it costs to make a piece in her collection, why the costs are what they are, and how the 10% net profit is used (yes, 10% – not exactly the insane margin one would expect). She also talked about the “inherent” vs. “perceived” value of a product, and our general obsession with price transparency, and why that doesn’t always mean what we think it does. It’s a fantastic post and a must-read for anyone remotely interested in responsible spending.
So even tough it’s still difficult for me to succinctly explain why American-made and ethically-made brands are worth paying more for, I now have an incredible resource to point people towards. And while they’re reading that, they can also check out Elizabeth Suzann’s beautifully designed and made clothes, which – I don’t think I need to tell you – are well worth the price.
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Rita Mehta shops for a living and talks a lot. She launched her website, The American Edit, and podcast, Why Do We Have Things? so she’d have a place to talk about some of the things she’s most passionate about: American made design, responsible manufacturing, and conscious consumption. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.